As a small, rural school in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, we were fortunate to receive funds from the 360 Arts CAP grant, which allowed us to tell the history of our town, Marble, through an innovative, educational presentation and community mural. The staff and students of the Marble Charter School collaborated with two visiting artists who shared their expertise and knowledge with our school every Friday for six weeks. All aspects of this project gave the students and staff an opportunity to be part of an enriching and bonding creative experience that celebrated its town, and also provided the students with an authentic connection to their local history.
The elementary and middle school teachers were responsible for introducing their students to a specific era in Colorado history. Kindergartners, first and second graders learned about the period before the arrival of white settlers. The third, fourth and fifth graders studied the God Rush, while the sixth seventh and eight graders researched fur trapping and trading from the Native American, white settlers, and Europeans’ perspectives. The students then developed ten-minute skits that reflected the subjects and times that they had explored, all in relation to Marble.
Eric Baumheir of Carbondale Rhythm Collective incorporated music into the program. He taught the students how to identify and imitate rhythms as well as synthesize rhythm with movements. All of his activities were age appropriate: the youngest students worked with small percussions, the middle group with drums, and the oldest with marimbas. Mr. Baumheir not only taught the children about rhythm and instruments, but also how to work together in order to produce a relevant and compelling performance piece. He also helped many realize that overcoming challenges, such as learning how to play a new instrument, can improve self-worth and confidence.
The visual artist for this project, Rochelle Norwood, helped the students and staff create a mural for the town, which highlighted Marble’s landmarks and points of interest. She guided them through the collaborative process, integrating artistic and aesthetic concepts during her weekly classes. The mural began as a flat painting and then transformed into a three-dimensional collage with miniature hinged metal doors as a prominent, interactive feature.
As a conclusion to the project, our school was able to share its achievement with the community; several locals attended the performance and the mural will be hung in town at the end of the school year. Thanks to the think 360 ARTS CAP grant, the Marble History Project assisted our school in meeting one of its main goals: to engage with our community both as a source of support and as a recipient of our service. Because of the project’s success, we hope to make a school-wide educational and communal initiative an annual tradition.